Creepy killer dolls have haunted the horror scene since the late ’80s with classic titles such as Child’s Play (1988) and Puppetmaster (1989). However, a new popular trend of dolls have crept their way into the genre, starting with the infamous haunted Annabelle appearing in The Conjuring (2013). This deadly tool used by evil, demonic channeling, known in the paranormal world as a conduit, gained enough attention to spawn its own self-titled feature, Annabelle (2014). Last March, a new doll named Anna hit the horror indie scene with her own self-titled feature to haunt your nightmares while offering up some laughs along the way.
Following whispered rumors and a traumatic story from an eyewitness, Jacob (Justin Duncan) and Shawn (Gerald Crum) track down a haunted doll named Anna to a museum of possessed objects. Think of this as a less impressive version of John Zaffis’ collection from SyFy’s TV series, Haunted Collector. By the way, John, if you’re reading this, please take me on a ride along to one of your investigations. Anyway, Jacob and Shawn kidnap Anna from the museum hoping to spend seven days documenting the paranormal activity surrounding the rumored conduit. When it’s clear nothing is happening, the duo connect a commonality between the rumors surrounding this demon doll. Testing the limits, Jacob and Shawn bite off more than they can chew by opening a door to something they become desperate to close.
At face value, Anna seems like it would be a direct rip-off of Annabelle with just enough variations to avoid a lawsuit. Thankfully, this is not the case. Many hardcore fans of the hit TV show Supernatural will recognize a similarity between the Jacob/Shawn team-up and the amatuer ghost hunters known as the Ghostfacers. Though it barrows from both of these concepts, this feature directorial of Michael Crum holds its own by adding some originality as Jacob and Shawn humorously dig a hole for themselves deep enough to hide a body. With a cleverly crafted script, Gerald (who wrote the film’s story) and Justin play off one another like a comedy act as their characters try to accomplish something while everything goes wrong. Though some of the shaky acting is glossed over in the beginning and some comedic scenes are longer than necessary, the pair grows on you as their chemistry improves throughout film.
Throughout the occasional laughs and light heartedness, there is a startlingly dark side to the film. Whereas Annabelle looks like a semi-creepy porcelain doll with a grin, Anna has the appearance of a small Raggedy Ann from Hell minus the red hair. It is blatantly obvious that nothing good can come from this used and abused toy of Satan. However, the special effects team credit does not stop there. Despite some of the visuals occasionally being hard to see in detail, due to focus issues and poor lighting, the sound effects, set design and imagery are all driving forces behind making this film an indie success.
Offering a few unexpected jump scare attempts and gritty imagery, the behind the scenes work for Anna is noteworthy in helping to earn this film 8.2 stars out of 10 on IMDb. Considering 1200 gallons of movie magic blood and 900 pounds of mud were used during filming along with custom builds for every set, it is clear that this was a key element behind the film’s appeal.
Mainstream horror fans craving big budget studio pictures are out of luck on this one. That just isn’t how most indie horror features roll. Fans who enjoy fun indie comedic horror that somehow retains a creep factor will thoroughly enjoy Anna. Just remember that Gerald Crum broke his foot, Justin Duncan endured an ear infection and the cast and crew suffered through freezing temperatures to bring you this wonderful mix of nightmarish laughter.